Dissecting Anthills of W/Human Insurrection: A Comparative Study of African Creative Writing on Female Genital Excision

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This dissertation presents a comprehensive diachronic analysis of African creative writing on female genital excision published in the last four decades of the 20th century. It examines the narrative and discursive strategies used by three consecutive 'generations' of writers (men and women, including Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Flora Nwapa, Nuruddin Farah, Calixthe Beyala, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor) to explore female genital excision in their writing, and how they use the topic to address broader socio-political themes, such as (de)colonisation, national repression, feminism, women's rights and globalisation, and how the developments within this literary corpus reflect (on) the political and literary-historical developments in post-colonial Africa and the African diaspora.
By comparing North, sub-Saharan and diasporic African literary texts written in English, French and Arabic, this study crosses the traditional linguistic, geographic and ethnic divisions in African literatures and bridges the gap between anglophone and francophone African literary and postcolonial criticism, between African and African-American studies. This marked heterogeneity of the literary corpus notwithstanding, three waves or 'generations' can be distinguished which more or less correspond to specific time periods and/or spatial locations:
A first generation, writing in the 1960s when most African countries are gaining independence, stylistically and/or discursively approach the sensitive topic of female genital excision with circumspection, and show how the traditional rite of passage in the colonial conflict becomes emblematic of the ethnic identity of the indigenous population. Some ten years later a second generation of authors, men and women from the sub-Sahara as well as the Mashreq writing in the 1970s and mid 1980s, expand on the theme of post-independent disenchantment in the works of contemporary male African writers by criticising the continuation of traditional misogynist gender practices after independence. They present the debate on female genital excision as a domestic, internal (intra-cultural) affair and show how the challenges to the practice are also (direct or indirect) challenges to the repressiveness of the phallocratic post-indepedent regimes. African women are increasingly assigned narrative as well as practical agency, a trend that is continued by the third and most recent generation of authors (mid 1980s - 1990s), who even more explicitly denounce the physical and psychological destructivity of female genital excision. These writers, all women and often diasporic figures themselves, explore the practice in an inter-cultural context and present female genital exicision as a symbol of the world-wide and age-old patriarchal repression of women.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAntwerp: University of Antwerp
Number of pages409
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Publication series



  • African literatures
  • African-American literature
  • postcolonial literatures
  • anglophone African literature
  • francophone African literature
  • female genital excision
  • feminism
  • colonisation
  • globalisation


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